Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Jesus at the Temple

I had the opportunity to attend the Paris Temple dedication in a local chapel near there and was very grateful to be a part of it.  In one of the talks during the dedication service the speaker spoke about how the temple was central to what the Savior did during His mortal ministry.  Even though the temple served different purposes under the Law of Moses than in our day, I believe that His focus on the temple is still very instructive to us.  Even as an infant His parents took Him to the temple where Simeon blessed Him.  At the age of 12 He spent at least three days in the temple where the doctors were “hearing him, and asking him questions” (Luke 2:46).  At the beginning of His ministry, “Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting.”  He commanded them saying, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise,” showing that He indeed considered the temple to be a sacred edifice (John 2:13-16).  He did the exact same thing at the end of His ministry showing that His focus on keeping the temple pure had not changed: “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matt. 21:12-13).  There can be no question that Christ placed great value on the temple and what happened there. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Ax on the Ground

When John the Baptist was teaching the people, he gave this warning: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matt. 3:10).  It’s a rather ominous saying, and I’ve been thinking about what is meant by it.  Alma used the same phrase in even more forceful terms when he was teaching the people at Zarahemla: “And again I say unto you, the Spirit saith: Behold, the ax is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire, yea, a fire which cannot be consumed, even an unquenchable fire. Behold, and remember, the Holy One hath spoken it” (Alma 5:52).  We find it one more time in the scriptures when the Lord said in this dispensation: “The ax is laid at the root of the trees; and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. I, the Lord, have spoken it” (D&C 97:7).  So what is it that we are to learn from this phrase?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Past, Future, and Present: President Monson and Alma

In a conference talk several years ago, President Monson gave us a “treasure map” to follow with three parts to it: Learn from the past, prepare for the future, and live in the present.  He taught us that we each have a heritage and that it “provides a foundation built of sacrifice and faith. Ours is the privilege and responsibility to build on such firm and stable footings.”  He reminded us in looking to the future that if we are prepared we won’t fear, and that “It is necessary to prepare and to plan so that we don’t fritter away our lives. Without a goal, there can be no real success.”  President Monson encouraged us, though, to live in the present and not put off what needs to be done today.  He said, “There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today, and to live most fully today, we must do that which is of greatest importance. Let us not procrastinate those things which matter most.”  While remembering the past and looking to the future, we must focus on doing today the things that are most important.

Our Lawyer, Judge, and Judgment

Michael Wilcox made the observation that many scriptures speak of the Savior and our relationship with Him using terms from law: "[Christ] is our advocate—our lawyer—with the Father. Sin is broken law. There will be a judgment and a punishment or reward. We stand before the bar of God.  These are all terms from jurisprudence. We need a defense attorney and Jesus pleads for us” (S. Michael Wilcox, Face to Face, Seeking a Personal Relationship with God).  I thought I would explore this idea in the scriptures a bit further. Perhaps the most common law theme in Christianity is that of judgment.  Nearly all Christians believe in some kind of judgment that we will face, and it is such a common theme that we may not think about it in terms of jurisprudence.  The scriptures are clear that it is Christ who will be our Judge.  He testified to the Jews, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).  Moroni also witnessed this fact when he finished the Book of Mormon testifying that “the great Jehovah” is “the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead” (Moroni 10:34).  In one sense it could be perhaps quite discouraging to think that Christ is our Judge: after all, He was the only perfect person to live on the earth.  If I go before a mortal judge, I would prefer one who has made similar mistakes as I have and therefore might understand better and be a little lenient towards me.  But Christ made no mistakes and in fact commanded us, “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48).        

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Five Minutes With An Angel

High Nibley gave this observation/critique about members of the Church and spiritual gifts: “Moroni enumerates the spiritual gifts in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, yet we rarely ask for these gifts today—they don’t particularly interest us.  There is only one that we do ask for in all sincerity, and duly receive, and that, for obvious reasons, is the gift of healing.  But the other gifts?  Who cares for them?  We make light of them and prefer the real world of everyday life.  We do not even ask for the temporal gifts, because we don’t want them either—as gifts” (Work We Must, but the Lunch is Free,” Collective Works of Hugh Nibley, 9:234).  He gave a related commentary at another time: “We are commanded not to ask for or seek for office.  Yet nobody seems particularly interested in asking or seeking for gifts, while men constantly plan, scheme, and aspire to office.  Martin Harris and others actually left the Church because their services were not recognized by high office—Martin Harris, who had the privilege of standing in the presence of an angel and turning over the plates, wanted an office in the Church, something which would only be temporary and a nuisance.  Why, let me talk to Moroni for five minutes and I’ll give you the pleasure of sitting on the stand for evermore!” (In Criticizing the Brethren, 19).  I think as a general statement he is right: we seek spiritual gifts far too little and focus far more on the positions (Bishop, Relief Society president, stake president, patriarch, etc.) that others hold as opposed to the far more important gifts that we personally have. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Let Her Fly

President Hinckley said this about his relationship with his wife Marjorie: “I’ve tried to recognize [her] individuality, her personality, her desires, her background, her ambitions. Let her fly. Yes, let her fly! Let her develop her own talents. Let her do things her way.”  I read this last night as I was on a plane to France with my sister, having said goodbye to my family for over a week.  I had to laugh as I realized that I was literally the beneficiary of a wonderful wife who let me fly so I could come and watch the dedication of the Paris temple this weekend (while she wears herself out watching the little ones).  My wife has in many ways let me “fly” as I’ve pursued schooling in a place far from our home and worked at growing in my own career over the years.  I hope that in some way I can follow the example of President Hinckley and likewise let her fly and “get out of her way, and marvel at what she does.”  The Quaker proverb so beloved by Elder Hales perhaps describes best how we should support each other as couples, “Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Wealth Money Can't Buy

I came across this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his book Terre des hommes yesterday that I really like: “Il n'est qu'un luxe véritable, et c'est celui des relations humaines. En travaillant pour les seuls biens matériels, nous bâtissons nous-mêmes notre prison. Nous nous enfermons solitaires, avec notre monnaie de cendre qui procure rien qui vaille de vivre. Si je cherche dans mes souvenirs ceux qui m'ont laissé un goût durable, si je fais le bilan des heures qui ont compté, à coup sûr je retrouve celles que nulle fortune ne m'eût procurées.”  My rough translation of this is: “There is only a true kind of wealth, and that is human relationships.  By working for material things only, we build ourselves our own prison.  We lock ourselves in solitude, with our money that provides nothing worth living for.  If I search in my memories those which have left me a lasting savor, if I take stock of the hours that have counted, I certainly find those which no fortune would have obtained for me.”  I think we would add that it is human relationships and heavenly relationships that are the source of real wealth in this life.  In fact, it is in obeying the two great commandments that we find those two sources of real joy in life.  As Jesus taught: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39).

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

John the Preparer

The prophet Lehi prophesied that the role of John the Baptist would be to “prepare the way of the Lord.”  Perhaps the most important way that he did this was by baptizing.  Lehi said that “he should baptize in Bethabara, beyond Jordan” and that “he should baptize with water; even that he should baptize the Messiah with water” (1 Nephi 10:7, 9).  John prepared the way for the Savior both by baptizing the Savior Himself at the beginning of His ministry as well as by baptizing other disciples.  In doing so he prepared them to receive the Savior, telling them, “he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire” (Matt. 3:11).  He further explained, “Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him….  He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:28, 30).  He clearly sought to prepare his own disciples by teaching them of the Savior and warning them of his own “decrease” and ultimately his death.  Surely there were many who were able to accept the Savior because John had prepared them.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Church Among the Nephites

In the Old Testament, at least the King James version, the word church does not appear anywhere.  It was Christ in the New Testament who announced that He would “build my church” and many references to a church are found throughout the book of Acts and the epistles (Matt. 16:18).  In the Book of Mormon, we first read of a church in Nephi’s reference to “the brethren of the church” who were the associates of Laban (1 Nephi 4:26).  Other than that, Nephi prophesied much about churches that would be built up in the last days: he spoke of “the formation of a great church” and the “great and abominable church” as well as “God and the people of his church” (1 Nephi 13:4, 22:13; 2 Nephi 26:14).  He predicted that there would be “many churches” in the last days that would be built up and that they would become corrupted (2 Nephi 26:20).  But he never spoke about a “church” among the Nephites of his day, only “those who believed in the warnings and revelations of God” (2 Nephi 5:6). 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Make for the Peace of the People

I find the reasoning that King Mosiah gave to his people for why they should not have a king to be somewhat intriguing.  When he first asked the people who should be king, they said, “We are desirous that Aaron thy son should be our king and our ruler.”  Aaron had just departed to be a missionary to the Lamanites, and he would not “take upon him the kingdom” (Mosiah 29:2-3).  His brothers felt the same way, and so no son of Mosiah could become the next king.  Given that, Mosiah responded to the people telling them, “I desire that ye should consider the cause which ye are called to consider.”  He then suggested an interesting scenario for them to think about.  He asked them to imagine the possibility that they chose someone instead of Aaron to be king but then Aaron “should turn to be angry and draw away a part of this people after him, which would cause wars and contentions among you” (Mosiah 29:5, 7).  What’s a bit puzzling to me is that Mosiah clearly knew that this wouldn’t happen.  The Lord had already told him about his sons when they wanted to leave on a mission, “Let them go up, for many shall believe on their words, and they shall have eternal life” (Mosiah 28:7).  Surely Mosiah didn’t believe that his son who was, according to the Lord, guaranteed to have eternal life was going to rebel and cause a great war among the people.  So why did he use this example?